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AP Source: Phoenix has top coach, defensive player

August 22, 2014
Associated Press

Phoenix's Sandy Brondello is the WNBA's coach of the year and Mercury center Brittney Griner is the defensive player of the year, said a person close to the situation.

The pair will receive their awards Friday night in Phoenix before the Mercury host Los Angeles in the Western Conference semifinals opener, the person told The Associated Press late Thursday night, speaking on condition of anonymity because no official announcement has been made.

Brondello guided the Mercury to a 29-5 record in her first season in charge. Phoenix won 16 straight games during the season, the second most in WNBA history, just short of the Sparks' record of 18 consecutive victories.

When asked earlier Thursday about potentially winning the award, Brondello said: "It would be a great honor, and I've been appreciative of the opportunity to coach in this league. It's more of a team award and I have some great players around me."

She received 33 of the 38 votes with Minnesota's Cheryl Reeve and Washington's Mike Thibault each getting two, the person said. Atlanta's Michael Cooper got the other vote.

Having Griner in the middle was a big reason for Phoenix's success. The second-year star set a WNBA record with 129 blocks. She averaged 15.6 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.8 blocks this season.

"Defensive player of the year is MVP in my book," Griner said when asked what it would mean to win the award. "Defense is my favorite part of the game and what I want to be known for."

She blocked a record 11 shots in one game against Tulsa on June 29.

"She's 6-foot-8 but has mobility," Brondello said of her young star. "Shot blocking is about anticipation and she does a great job anticipating. She wasn't where she thought she would be last year, but has really developed this past year. She's really just scratched the surface."

Griner received 31 of the 38 votes with Atlanta's Sancho Lyttle finished second.

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